The Definitive Guide to British Comedy TV Since Fawlty Towers
Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture
The British are coming, and they want to invade your television. With … laughter.
Look, we get it. That opening sentence wasn’t too witty of a quip. Feel free to think of your own! But do you know what actually is funny? So funny, in fact, that it’s guaranteed to make your stomach clench so hard that it basically doubles as doing crunches? Comedies from across the pond, which have consistently been in a flourishing state even after the supposed “golden era” ended with Monty Pythontaking its last bow in 1974 or Fawlty Towerscursing out its final customer in 1979.
As a means of putting together a guide to the finest telly the Brits have to offer, Vulture has compiled what we consider to be 25 of the best comedies that have premiered since Basil Fawlty’s farewell — paying special attention to their influence, innovation, and critical acclaim in the evolution of modern comedy as we know it. Arrange your queues accordingly, and maybe whip up a Pimm’s Cup if you’re feeling feisty, because we have a lot of ground to cover.
Giving a whole lot of heart to an otherwise gloomy council-flat lifestyle, Only Fools and Horses revolves around the Trotter family, all of whom are kind enough to indulge its patriarch, cheekily named Del Boy, with his various “get rich quick” schemes as a Cockney shop trader — even if his schemes mostly turn out to be a whole load of bollocks. Still, Del Boy’s unwavering dedication to one day becoming a member of the millionaire club to support his family keeps his younger brother, grandfather, and later uncle from turning their backs, the occasional black-market scuffle be damned. Now, if only he can find some legal goods to make those dreams a reality.
A mustachioed café owner’s gotta do what a mustachioed café owner’s gotta do to stay in business during World War II, even if that means getting intertwined with every demographic in his uniquely occupied French town — whether it’s serving up brewskis to the Nazis at the bar and hiding stolen paintings on their behalf, or allowing British soldiers to shack up in his family’s apartment with some radio equipment to spy on those Nazis. Anything to make an honest dollar, so the saying goes! However, if his wife finds out he’s cheating on her with the café’s waitresses, his main problem might not even be war-related at all. How ironic.
Rowan Atkinson’s reign as a British comedy scion officially began with Blackadder,a four-season sitcom woven together as a bizarro “historical” anthology. Atkinson portrays a clever grouch named Edmund Blackadder, who, while maintaining the same cynical and opportunistic personality, changes era and social status every season by means of being a familial descendant — a prince in the Middle Ages, an Elizabethan lord, a royal attendant in the Regency, and an army captain during World War I. (A thick-skinned servant named Baldrick is the other constant throughout the series, and a nice foil.) Funny enough, the further these Blackadders progress in the millennium, the weaker their prominence becomes in society. Not that the man himself would ever admit to that.
Let the power of Atkinson continue to compel you with Mr. Bean,a character who’s pretty much the complete antithesis of that Blackadder fellow. Almost always mute, a lover of buffoonery, and incapable of walking down a street without difficulty, Bean is more reminiscent of a 3-year-old experiencing the joys of the outside world for the first time as opposed to a fully developed 30-something man with shit to do — but the folks around him sure don’t seem to mind his antics. You’d think creating chaos out of simple situations would exercise its appeal after a few episodes, but clearly you’ve never seen Atkinson use an escalator.
Airing concurrently with their equally terrific sketch series A Bit of Fry & Laurie,dignified Cambridge gents Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry breathed new comedic life — with a healthy side of drama — into P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves canon with Jeeves and Wooster.Wooster, a well-mannered dandy who always finds a way to get into trouble, and Jeeves, his penguin-suited valet who always knows how to get him out of said trouble, serve as our optics into the silly world of Britain’s 1930s idle class, which mostly consists of bachelors standing around with Martinis, complaining about the weather, and dodging engagements (both the social and romantic ones). If only life could be this laissez-faire for everyone.
Half sitcom, half comedy of errors, you can probably decipher what Keeping Up Appearances deals with by its name alone — a snobbish, comfortably middle-class housewife named Hyacinth has aspirations to reach that sweet, sweet elite class of people despite her perfectly fine life, and will stop at nothing until she cons her way into the one percent. (Her last name is Bucket, but it’s pronounced Bouquet to you. Double flora for the win!) Hyacinth’s husband, bless his heart, somehow deals with all of this nonsense, even if that means conceding to this new surname pronunciation or indulging her frequent dinner parties to impress the neighbors. Go ahead and diagnose her, viewers!
What do you mean you haven’t watched this yet, sweetie darling? The terrible, no good, very bad decisions of Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) might make you feel better about your sporadically ill-advised life choices, especially since the duo makes all of those amphetamine cocktails and cigarettes, look, well, simply fabulous.The crux of Ab Fab is that Edina, a PR rep, and Patsy, a floating fashion director of some sort, just want to evade responsibilities and have a bloody good time with their elite circle of London enablers, much to the chagrin of Edina’s increasingly bitter daughter. (Frankly? We can’t blame her at times.) These dames might be in their 40s, but they could drink a pack of bushy-tailed frat boys to their deaths. With pleasure! And a side of Marlboros!
When the Church of England finally entered the modern age in 1992 by allowing female ministers to be ordained, the BBC smartly found a way to capitalize on humor that could emerge from such a situation: by creating The Vicar of Dibley,a sitcom that finds a rambunctious lady vicar with a penchant for chocolate (Dawn French, a true comedy icon) taking up shop in a rural village that appears, at first, to be the worst possible village for her personality and holy talents. She just had to be a woman, the traditional folk cry out! Of course, everybody starts to warm to the arrangement in due time, and before they know it, Dibley without her is simply unfathomable.
Prior to the concept of “satirical news program” picking up steam in America, The Day Today served as a six-episode master class on how a show could create an effective template for parodying, well, just about everything going on in the news. Unlike other late-night programs that went on to critique legitimate current affairs, though, Day Today’s whole shtick was that it would weave absurd, fictional stories around actual news footage for the surrealist narrative they wanted to create, on top of segments that just flat-out mocked the country. (Example: “Bomb dogs” being released in London by the IRA, causing mass chaos in the city.) The fake-news snowflakes might go nuts if this type of thing aired in 2018, but who are we to judge.
Perhaps we’d see a vast uptick in Roman Catholic devotees if all priests were as delightful as the ones in Father Ted,who roam the fictional Craggy Island with iron-silly fists and even sillier backstories. Banished to this extremely Irish locale for various unpriestly reasons — don’t go to Vegas on parish funds, you seminary students! — Fathers Ted, Dougal, and Jack try to make the best of their new surroundings, although that mostly includes dodging their overbearing parochial housekeeper and trying to assert their dominance over an annoying Father from another island. Oh, and they’re pretty good at their jobs, if you care about that sort of thing. Half of the time, anyway.
Few would argue that Steve Coogan’s delightfully unhinged TV presenter turned radio DJ character is his most important comedic contribution; he’s kind of like if Elvis Duran suddenly got a terrible haircut and tactlessly insulted every Top 40 musician who swung by Z100 for a softball interview. But mind you, I’m Alan Partridge’s protagonist doesn’t even have that much fame — as we find out in the premiere, he’s banished by the BBC due to a medley of offences and is forced to set up shop in the dull city of Norwich, barely hanging on to his sanity with his (1) graveyard time slot and (2) lack of listeners. He also tries to get into the TV biz once again, but we have a feeling you can figure out how well that goes.
The dream team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright — pre-Cornetto Trilogy ascension — combined their creative forces for good with Spaced,a deliciously surreal sitcom built on the foundation of two 20-somethings who have a chance meeting and decide to con their way into an apartment by pretending to be married — because, yes, even the housing market in new-millennium Britain was that terrible. (It’s important to note that Jessica Hynes was also a co-creator and had equal involvement with the men.) The requisite high jinks ensue when the two try to hide their non-romantic status from their landlady, but the most fun comes from those surreal, acid-trip diversions, one of which will make you look at The A-Team in a completely different light.
Despite rarely making a sale in his envy-inducing London bookshop — à la Hugh Grant in Notting Hill,but with 50 percent more grime — Black Books’ misanthropic lead Bernard Black comfortably manages to keep to his daily routine of smoking, drinking, and berating customers with limited interruption, eschewing unnecessary contact with anyone who isn’t his two friends. (It would be three friends, but we don’t consider “books” as people. Sorry.) Just don’t be deceived, dear literati. The series may maintain a melancholic aura, but Bernard is mostly a goofy dude who invites Jehovah’s Witnesses into his home to avoid doing taxes. We love a spontaneous man!
If Friendsis the innocent girl next door who pops in every now and then for lemonade and crush-talk, Coupling is her older, experienced sister who comes over to dish about all the blow jobs she’s given while buzzed on Smirnoff. From the mind of Steven Moffat — who later went on to spearhead Doctor Whoand Sherlock— the sitcom depicts the lurid sexual shenanigans and dating lives of a group of six friends, who are all at the point in their lives when they maybe want to start dialing it down with the trysts and “couple” with a partner for life. Or maybe not. You know how fickle 20-somethings can be.
The Office walked so all the other TV mockumentaries could run. Some might be surprised to learn that the original, Ricky Gervais–fronted Officeonly spanned 12 episodes, but even more surprising is the sheer amount of putting-the-fun-in-dysfunction antics always plaguing the gang’s paper company. Let us repeat: paper company! This is mostly due to Gervais’s infamous David Brent, a general manager so oblivious, a general manager so daft, that you can’t help but feel bad for him. (As much as you can before his next racist or sexist gaffe, that is.) Come for what eventually became Gervais’s most iconic character, and stay for a young Martin Freeman giving googly-eyes to the receptionist.
Even if you have only the faintest understanding of British comedy, you’d know that David Mitchell and Robert Webb have reigned — completely reigned— over the small screen with their never-ending supply of witticisms and cheek since the early aughts. While we could argue that their ThatMitchell and Webb Look sketch series could also be included on this list, Peep Show won out because of how the duo managed to elevate the simple “opposites attract” sitcom trope into something far more innovative, whether with their internal narration or literal “peeping” point-of-view filming style. (The show’s building block is that two best friends of opposite Myers-Briggs personalities share an apartment.) Also, there’s a character named Super Hans, whom we’re presenting without comment in the hopes that you’ll Google him.
If you like Mitchell and Webb but wish they would, hmm, put more energy into acerbically critiquing and dissecting the societal norms of British culture, allow us to recommend two other chaps in their place: Matt Lucas and David Walliams. With Little Britain,the duo rides a carousel of off-kilter characters who “best” represent the country’s faces in this postmodern time, ranging from a quintessentially chavvy teenage girl to a lazy guy in a wheelchair who doesn’t actually need a wheelchair. Britain doesn’t come off looking so hot, but that’s not really the point, innit? A little self-deprecating humor never hurt anyone.
Drop some acid and allow the bizarre, Technicolor world of The Mighty Boosh to melt the retinas off your eyeballs. There really isn’t an easy way to explain the surrealist vision of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, whose show stemmed from their comedy troupe of the same name. All you need to know is that they play two aspiring musicians living on another universe with an alien and gorilla as pals, with sonic-defying musical vignettes woven in for good measure. (Remember the “I’m old Gregg” sound bite from a few years ago? It came from here.) Just as Terry Gilliam’s animation was integral for Monty Python,so is Barratt’s “crimp” music for Boosh.
Your Rolodex of colorful insults will increase threefold, at the minimum, after watching Peter Capaldi swagger around with his Blackberry in The Thick of It. (Our favorite? “Fuckity bye!”) Brutally satirizing the entire British government as we know it, everyone from senior ministers to opposition leaders are in for some equal-opportunity bashing, and it might be the highbrow antidote you need to our current, uh, less-than-great political climate. (It should come as no surprise that the show’s creator, The Day Today’s Armando Iannucci, later went on to create Veep.) But mostly, you’ll emerge sexually confused about spin doctors.
Like The Office,the workplace shenanigans of The IT Crowd didn’t have to rely on dramatic or surrealist detours to make its mark when all it needed was a good heart. Revolving around two socially inept technology support workers and their ill-equipped “relationship manager” — calling her understanding of tech “rudimentary” would be polite — the trio form a camaraderie thanks to their equal passion for avoiding various aspects of work, which often lead to some memorable outings beyond the confines of their depressing basement office. (Their velvety-voiced boss sometimes finds his way in there, too.) By the time you finish the series, you won’t even realize you have zero idea what their hoity-toity company actually does.
Before James Corden moved Stateside to shepherd The Late Late Show into its newest iteration, he co-wrote and starred in what’s arguably the most popular rom-com to ever emerge from the U.K’s television screens: Gavin & Stacey.(There aren’t that many, but still.) It’s a charming and unpretentious story about the evolution of two people following their hearts with a long-distance courtship — one in Britain, the other in Wales — but not without pitfalls, as anyone involved in long-distance courtships with eccentric families could probably tell you. You’ll be openly aww-ing by minute five, we guarantee it.
While lads-behaving-badly humor doesn’t suit everyone, The Inbetweeners perfectly captured the Zeitgeist of being a millennial teen — or rather, being an average millennialteen — trying to come of age within the confines of a snoozy London suburb with minimum levels of embarrassment. It’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day our quartet of protagonists — boys of varying degrees of silliness — just want to shout “Bus wankers!”at random people and maybe even seduce a “bird” or two if they’re lucky. They’re harmless, but their terrible decision-making skills might give you flashbacks of your own youth.
In a way, Fresh Meat serves as a natural comedic continuation to The Inbetweeners.(It doesn’t hurt that the shows share the same leading straight guy, either.) A diverse group of “freshers” meet at a university and have the (dis)pleasure of sharing a house with each other as they navigate their way through the dreaded first year. The first year, though, soon turns into the second and third year, and all of their hedonistic hangs and general eschewal of work somehow — unsurprisingly — ends in a ton of debt and a daunting lack of job prospects. There’s poignant commentary about higher education in there somewhere.
Rob Delaney jumped from Twitter jokester to bona fide acting jokester with Catastrophe,which intimately follows the aftermath of a weeklong bang fest between an American man and Irish woman (Sharon Horgan) due to a pregnancy from their many, many trysts. Surprising: how the man packs up his things and promptly moves across the Atlantic to support his new lady in the concrete jungle of London. Even more surprising: how they’re actually a match made in rom-com heaven, a palatable mix of warmth and bite that makes it easy to imagine them as your personal friends. Hey, that’s realism for you.
On a surface level, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is about a self-professed “greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt” woman trying to shag and drink her way through London as she lives out her remaining youngish years with maximum enjoyment, however destructive it might be. (She also, somehow, manages a café.) But through all her fourth-wall-breaking narrations and nods is someone using the noirest of black humor to cope with a profound loss, the loss of which, however voyeuristically, we get to reap the comedic rewards of in its aftermath.
This list won't be for everybody, but if you have similar taste in humour, you might like these...
In no particular order after 10...
Thank you for the kind comments, Alan, Saff, Gary, Linda, Aria, Harsh, Michael-Scott, & Lori.
Gary, I'm grateful for your suggestion of 'George & Mildred'; watched some on YTb and absolutely love it! As for 'Robin's Nest', it was already in my list of 'British Comedies', but not 'Best of'. I'd never heard of 'Return of Shelly' and could not easily find any samples/previews online, but have added it to my list of 'British Comedies'...
Linda, thank you for your reminder about 'Waiting for God', it is wonderful; I tend to prefer the earlier episodes over the later, but it is always enjoyable!
Aria, thanks, 'Red Dwarf' is a guilty pleasure...
Harsh, I've never had the pleasure of watching 'Inbetweeners'; will give it a go soon, thanks!
Thanks, Michael-Scott; I bet you're referring to 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie'? It's included in my list of 'British Comedies'. I've enjoyed what little I've caught of this, and am a big fan of Stephen's and Hugh's other works [particularly 'Jeeves and Wooster' & 'Black Adder Goes Forth'].
Lori, Thanks for a great list of Britcoms! I've enjoyed some of these [particularly 'Outnumbered'] and they are all included in my "British Comedy TV Series / Britcoms" list, but not in my "Best of..." list.
Srikanth Raman, I've added 'Yes Minister', but I'll have to familiarize myself with 'Citizen Smith'; thanks!
TV-14|25 min| Comedy
The comedic misadventures of Roy, Moss and their grifting supervisor Jen, a rag-tag team of IT support workers at a large corporation headed by a hotheaded yuppie.
Stars: Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, Matt Berry
TV-14|30 min| Comedy, Romance
Six best friends talk about all aspects of sex and relationships on their never-ending quest to find true love.
Stars: Jack Davenport, Gina Bellman, Sarah Alexander, Kate Isitt
45 min| Comedy, History, War
In France during World War II, Rene Artois runs a small café where Resistance fighters, Gestapo men, German Army officers and escaped Allied POWs interact daily, ignorant of one another's true identity or presence, exasperating Rene.
Stars: Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera, Vicki Michelle, Richard Marner
TV-PG|25 min| Comedy
Bernard Black runs a book shop, though his customer service skills leave something to be desired. He hires Manny as an employee. Fran runs the shop next door. Between the three of them many adventures ensue.
Stars: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig, Paul Beech
The Top 12 British Comedies of All Time – Best Britcoms With Clips!
Editor’s Note: The following is an excellent guest post from writer Garry Berman – author of the fantastic book Best of the Britcoms, an excellent guide to history’s best British sitcoms. Thanks Garry!
Just over ten years ago, my book Best of the Britcoms was first published, celebrating fifty of the finest British sitcoms to cross the Atlantic and grace our American airwaves. It was a labor of love, and I had the pleasure on interviewing many of the writers, actors, directors, and producers of Britain’s most accomplished sitcoms. The revised and updated edition of Best of the Britcoms has just been published, with seven new chapters featuring programs that have aired in the U.S. since 2000. And yet, Anglotopia has asked me to choose just ten of my all-time favorites. Despite the honor, I must acknowledge my inability to limit the list to ten, and offer my list of Ten (Plus Two) All-Time Favorite Britcoms.
A shamelessly silly, fast-paced, and hilarious farce set in German-occupied France during World War II. Cowardly cafe owner Rene Artois finds himself caught up in a myriad of elaborate but harebrained schemes concocted by the French Resistance, as they try foil the Germans’ war operations. Gorden Kaye as Rene leads a large cast of 18 eccentric characters through this sprawling mix of cleverly absurd dialogue and uproarious slapstick. The sheer comic inventiveness of this show can be breathtaking.
2. The Brittas Empire
Set in a suburban leisure centre (i.e. a health club/recreation facility), this series may not be well-known in the U.S., but in its day it was referred to as the Fawlty Towers of the 90s in the U.K. This compliment was not only warranted, but I consider Brittas the better of the two series. Chris Barrie stars as Gordon Brittas, the hands-on but disaster prone manager of the centre, who unwittingly drives his staff and clientele to near rebellion with his well-meaning but interfering ways. But the employees have their own foibles, too. A typical episode will have several unrelated predicaments converge for a climactic moment, which often involves an explosion or two.
A comic masterpiece, courtesy of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. This follow-up to their breakout series The Office features their signature comedy-of-the-awkward-pause, but in a fresh context. Gervais plays struggling actor Andy Millman, who works as an extra while waiting for his big break. This comes when he sells his sitcom pilot to the BBC, but his creative vision is tampered with to such a degree that he finds himself conflicted between seeking fame and fortune, and his own personal integrity. Ashley Jensen is brilliant as Andy’s platonic pal Maggie, and Merchant is a scream as his incompetent agent. Lots of A-list guest stars play warped versions of themselves as well.
4. Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister
The inner workings and double-dealings that go on within the British government may not sound like the best fodder for a sitcom. But writers Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn combine their superb skills to give us a genuinely funny series that pokes fun at bureaucracy at its most outlandish. Paul Eddington stars as Jim Hacker, the Minister for Administrative Affairs, who finds his efforts to curb government waste perpetually foiled by Private Secretary Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne). Humphrey revels in creating bureaucratic red tape and, when need be, easily confounds Hacker with barrages of dizzying double talk. The dialogue demands that viewers pay attention, but the laughs come at a steady clip. When Hacker becomes Prime Minister, the series smoothly turns its satire to world affairs.
5. Good Neighbors (The Good Life in the U.K.)
A conventional but utterly charming and endearing domestic sitcom from the mid-1970s. Tom Good (Richard Briers) has dropped out of the rat race to pursue a life of self-sufficiency. His adorable wife Barbara (Felicity Kendal) supports him through thick and thin, as they work to grow vegetables and raise livestock in their backyard. But their next door neighbors, Jerry and Margo Ledbetter (Tom’s former colleague and his snobbish wife), often find their patience strained by the Good’s unconventional and somewhat hygienically-challenged lifestyle. Their close friendship survives many tests.
6. The Vicar of Dibley
Dawn French stars in this virtually perfect sitcom as a lady vicar, who turns the quiet village of Dibley upside down with her zest for life, bawdy sense of humor, and genuine affection for its inhabitants. But she finds herself constantly butting heads with David Horton, the stuffy chairman of the motley town council. Dawn French demonstrates a talent that her former comedy partner Jennifer Saunders seems to lack, i.e. playing a true-to-life, very human character, as opposed to an over-the-top caricature. French is superb, as are her cast mates. Created and co-written by the prolific Richard Curtis (The Blackadder, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually).
7. Are You Being Served?
A staple among PBS affiliates for years, this show treats us to the dilemmas, schemes, and endless double-entendres exchanged among the sales staff of Grace Brothers department store. Each episode is rather thin on plot, preferring instead to concentrate on the colorful characters as they deal with customers as well as each other. Their wonderfully easy chemistry shines through in every episode. John Inman as Mr. Humphries is often singled out, but my favorite has always been Trevor Bannister as the fast-talking, wisecracking Mr. Lucas.
8. Father Ted
A daringly irreverent sitcom by American standards (it was literally banned in Boston). A trio of Irish priests– Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan), his imbecilic younger colleague, Father Dougal McGuire, and the elder, perpetually inebriated Father Jack Hackett. They have a knack for indulging in various schemes that can be somewhat less than holy, and tend to result in the priests inadvertently humiliating themselves in public. The series boasts surreal black-out gags, ludicrous dialogue, and an anything-goes comic sensibility treats many sacred institutions as fair game. But the comedy here is too absurd to be taken seriously, if you know what I mean.
9. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
The great Leonard Rossiter’s most memorable role, as a harried dessert company executive on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His lightning fast delivery and jittery mannerisms perfectly convey a man becoming unraveled by life’s pressures. After faking his own death and traveling in disguise for a while, he returns home to embark on a series of bizarre new business ventures. A true classic.
10. One Foot in the Grave
The winner of a dozen television awards, this deceptively simple sitcom actually boasts several innovations in both its storytelling and production. Curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson), forced into early retirement, must find ways to keep himself occupied each day. But as he and his long-suffering wife Margaret try to lead a quiet life (that is, when Victor isn’t at war with neighbors, store clerks, and the rest of the world), they find themselves regularly entangled in the most macabre of comic situations and misunderstandings. David Renwick’s intricately plotted scripts–which often allow the characters to react to plot twists before we viewers are made privy to them–are ingenious, to say the least.
11. Red Dwarf
This wildly imaginative cult favorite successfully blends the best of comedy and science fiction as no program has done before or since, on either side of the Atlantic. The series takes place 3 million years in the future, aboard the huge spaceship Red Dwarf. The ship is manned only by David Lister, his cat in human form (long story), Holly, the ship’s computer, Kryten, a mechanoid, and, in hologram form, the late Arnold Rimmer, who had inadvertently killed the entire crew, including himself, many moons ago (Lester’s erstwhile girlfriend Kristine Kochanski joins the show as a regular in its later series). The comedy can be silly, sometimes crude, but always fabulous, as the gang wander through the galaxy meeting new life forms, traveling through time dimensions, and playing juvenile pranks on each other.
This series is just about to appear for the first time in the U.S. on a few PBS
stations, and hopefully it will get the widespread attention it deserves. It takes a simple premise, the day-to-day life of an average married couple and their young children and creates a semi-improvised comedy of amazing realism. The three kids keep their chronically exhausted parents forever on their toes with an onslaught of hard-to-answer questions and refusals to eat their dinner. Their rapport is so natural, you’d swear you’re eavesdropping on a real (and very funny) family. Keep an eye out for this award-winning gem.
Filed Under: Anglophilia, British TV, Guest Posts
The 15 Best British Sitcoms Of All Time
The U.K. has long been a major comedy factory. The focus on discomfort and unpleasant situations and characters is a distant stretch from the typically American focus on light-hearted comedy full of lovably stupid characters. While a lot of British shows get North American remakes, they very rarely work.
RELATED: The 10 Best Sitcoms Of All Time (According To IMDb)
As such, we’ve ranked the best British sitcoms ever made, based on the exact way they were presented in the U.K. This brand of humor never gets old, especially for North American audiences who love watching the British deliver the laughs right where it counts - deep in the belly. We've added 5 more to our list to round out a healthy dose of laughter the way only the British can deliver.
Updated on January 3rd, 2021 by Derek Draven: Great TV shows are being made all the time and older ones are being rediscovered at an equally high rate, so we've updated our list to add 5 more timeless British comedy classics. Some are old, some are new, and some enjoyed multi-decade runs that brought laughter to multiple generations. Bring the tissues, as the laughs are non-stop, and won't let up until long after the Stop button has been pressed. These British sitcoms show the very best that the U.K. comedy scene can offer to TV audiences around the world and many of them have become beloved classics across the globe.
15 Are You Being Served? (1972-1985)
Few sitcoms are so loaded with laughs as Are You Being Served? This hilarious lampoon of British class warfare and stuffy 1970s department stores couldn't have been timed better. The Rolling Stones were burning up the charts, Britain was undergoing a major political transformation, and the old ways seemed ready to go quietly into the night.
The staff of Grace Brothers wasn't about to go down without a fight, however. They spent just as much time ripping on each other as they did ripping off their customers, to hilarious effect. The physical comedy and hilarious sexual double entendres are the stuff of comic legend, even to this day.
14 Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
John Cleese broke away from his Monty Python crew to head up this funny comedy about an obnoxious hotel owner and his overbearing wife as they tried to run an establishment while dealing with colorful guests and ridiculous situations. Fawlty Towers never once took itself seriously, instead going straight for the funnybone.
Cleese's deadpan delivery and quick-witted acting chops honed by years as a Python alum made him a natural fit for the show. It has since gone on to become one of the highest-rated British sitcoms ever made, if not the most acclaimed.
13 Keeping Up Appearances (1990-1995)
Patricia Routledge knocked comedy out of the park with this 1990s gem where she played Hyacinth Bucket, an insufferable and middle-class woman with delusions of elitism. The show wasted no opportunity to poke fun at Britain's class warfare system, which by then was quickly on its way out the door.
She frequently pronounced her last name "Bouquet" to hide the original pronunciation while serving lavish tea and dinner parties for guests who would give their right arm not to be there. As she tried to keep up appearances, she was forced to deal with her trashy lower-class family who frequently showed up to embarrass her at every opportunity.
12 Chef! (1993-1996)
Long before Gordon Ramsay made a name for himself as the world's most hot-tempered chef, comedian Lenny Henry beat him to the punch as Gareth Blackstock, the owner of the posh eatery Le Chateau Anglais. Gareth's stubborn perfectionism and obsession to be the best at his craft led to hilarious run-ins with the law, health inspectors, bill collectors, and of course, his sexually neglected wife Janice.
RELATED: 10 Sitcoms With An All-Female Core Cast
Henry's ability to showcase anger, dry sarcasm and cruelty in such a hilarious fashion made him an instant hit with audiences. It's too bad the show didn't last longer than three seasons, because Chef! just happened to be one of the freshest U.K. comedies ever to have bounced out of the lift.
11 Mr. Bean (1990-1995)
It wouldn't be British comedy without Rowan Atkinson's hilarious and most infamous creation - Mr. Bean. This bumbling weirdo found himself getting into one madcap situation after another, to the delight of audiences around the world. Mr. Bean's good-natured personality and unstoppable Peter Pan syndrome landed him in one socially awkward situation after another.
In fact, the show was so popular that it spawned numerous specials and a full-length Hollywood movie. Plus, the infamous Christmas episode is considered a must-watch during the holidays, if for no other reason than that timeless turkey scene.
10 The Royle Family (1998-2012)
Starring Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, The Royle Family centers on a Manchester-based family as they, effectively, watch television and do very little else. The series was highly regarded for its parody-style portrayal of working-class families at the end of the 20th century.
Almost all of the humor comes from their derivative, confrontational, controversial, and uncomfortable conversational style, mixed with the overwhelming laziness of Tomlinson in the starring role. It’s a shame the show hasn’t been regularly broadcast for twenty years.
9 Friday Night Dinner (2011-present)
Friday Night Dinner is currently experiencing a huge boom of fame over in the U.K. Now in its sixth season (which is currently airing), its humble, ordinary characters have become cultural icons.
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It follows a Jewish family as they try to get through their special family Friday night dinner without any mishaps and, of course, encounter various mishaps every single time, most often coming from their neighbor Jim.
8 Extras (2005-2007)
Ricky Gervais’ second attempt at a sitcom came a few years after The Office reached its conclusion. Thanks to the overwhelming success of his previous endeavor, he and Stephen Merchant were able to attract an unfathomably impressive list of Hollywood guest stars to what is, at its core, a humble British sitcom.
This included everyone from Ben Stiller to Daniel Radcliffe, each playing a fictionalized version of themselves to incredible comedic poise. The show is memorable for an episode where musician/actor David Bowie plays himself to hilarious effect.
7 The IT Crowd (2006-2013)
The stars of The IT Crowd (Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, and Katherine Parkinson) were a humble team working in IT support, with support coming from the hilarious Matt Berry and Noel Fielding.
While it was set most prominently in a basement, The IT Crowd often delved into the surreal. Parodic versions of Elton John, a fair few suicides, and even the presence of what is implied to be a real vampire, turned this show into something way beyond a sitcom.
6 Peep Show (2003-2015)
One of the most unique entries on this list stars famed comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb as Mark and Jeremy, a pair of rather unsuccessful, uninspired late twenty-somethings living in a flat together. The twist is that everything is filmed from the first-person perspective of the two characters.
This means the audience sees what they see, and experiences what they experience. Inner monologues help sell the comedy, putting the viewers right in the middle of whatever horrendously uncomfortable situation they’ve landed themselves in.
5 The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
Known for being one of the rudest shows ever to make it to TV, The Inbetweeners was a hit amongst teens when it first aired. It has since found fame in the US (not through its disastrous remake) and managed to spawn two feature-length films.
Whether it’s the awkward intelligence of Will, the impossible stupidity of Neil, the pathologically lying Jay, or the seemingly normal yet also incredibly strange Simon, there is a character in there for everyone to relate to.
4 Gavin And Stacey (2007-2019)
Known for its merging of Welsh and English cultures as its titular stars Gavin (Matthew Horne) and Stacey (Joanna Page) try and figure out how to have a long-distance relationship after having started to date only over the phone.
In the U.S., it is mostly known for giving James Corden a start in the comedy world when he co-wrote and co-starred in the show with the incomprehensibly funny Ruth Jones. The list of brilliant moments and laugh out loud characters is quite literally too long to list.
3 Outnumbered (2007-2016)
Handing the reins of a show over to two very young children as they semi-improvise their way through half an hour of television seems like a recipe for disaster. Luckily, with Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez in the driver’s seat for this show, it was in about as safe as a pair of six-year-old hands can get.
For children that young to have a grasp so strong on what is and isn’t funny is seriously impressive. Obviously, the show was a ticking time bomb that was basically trying to get as much done as possible before the kids aged. The most recent Christmas special had to move the humor back to the parents, Pete and Sue, as the children (now both adults) don’t have the same laugh out loud presence on screen. In its prime, however, Outnumbered was just about as funny as TV can get.
2 Only Fools And Horses (1981-2003)
Only Fools And Horses stillmanages to hold up better than it ever should have. Despite being almost forty years old, the laughs haven't stopped. The hilarious Trotters and their get-rich-quick schemes put them in a wide array of hilarious situations that have brought laughs for decades.
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It might scale up the cockney element of Del Boy to the highest degree possible and turn Rodney into a walking parody of stupidity, but it’s just perfect. Try watching the scene where Del Boy falls backward into the bar without bursting out laughing.
1 The Office (2001-2003)
Probably the least surprising entry onto this list is The Office. Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais’ magnum opus. It might have been overshadowed in the US by its much longer, much more detailed counterpart, but the original remains the funniest by a long shot. The inimitable way David Brent is able to conjure up laughs with a single glance; every single thing Gareth ever said; the normalcy of Tim as he tries to get on with life while surrounded by these crazy people. It’s just perfect.
Gervais might have been unable to recreate the glory of the show without Merchant by his side when he made Life On The Road, but the original show remains totally immortal. It also brought Ricky Gervais into the North American public consciousness where he continues to shake up the foundations of the Hollywood establishment.
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NextSquid Game: 10 Things Fans Would Like To See In A Second Season, According To Reddit
List comedies pbs british
A British sitcom or a Britcom is a situational comedy programme produced for British television. Although styles of sitcom have changed over the years they tend to be based on a family, workplace or other institution, where the same group of contrasting characters is brought together in each episode. British sitcoms are typically produced in one or more series of six episodes. Most such series are conceived and developed by one or two writers.
The majority of British sitcoms are 30 minutes long and are recorded on studio sets in a multiple-camera setup. A subset of British comedy consciously avoids traditional situation comedy themes and storylines to branch out into more unusual topics or narrative methods. Blackadder (1983–1989) and Yes Minister (1980–1988, 2013) moved what is often a domestic or workplace genre into the corridors of power. A later development was the mockumentary in such series as The Office (2001–2003).
The first British television sitcom was Pinwright's Progress, broadcast by the BBC from 1946 to 1947, but the form did not take off until the transfer of Hancock's Half Hour from BBC radio in 1956.Hancock biographer John Fisher dates the first use of the term 'situation comedy' in British broadcasting to a BBC memo dated 31 March 1953 written by producer Peter Eton, suggesting the format as the ideal vehicle for Hancock's comedic style. "Hancock's persona of the pompous loser out of his depth in an uncomprehending society still informs many programmes today", according to Phil Wickham. Some of the scripts written for Hancock by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson almost repudiated a narrative structure altogether and attempted to reproduce an everyday environment with the intention of also reproducing its comedy. ITV's most successful sitcom of this period was probably The Army Game (1957–1961), featuring some of the comedians who would soon appear in the Carry On film series.
In the 1960s the BBC produced the earliest of Richard Waring's domestic comedies, Marriage Lines (1961–1966), with Richard Briers and Prunella Scales and a then-rare workplace comedy with The Rag Trade (1961–1963, 1977–1978). Two long-running series began around this time, Steptoe and Son (1962–1965, 1970–1974) and Till Death Us Do Part (1965–1968, 1972–1975), the latter criticised by Clean-Up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse for its bad language. With Steptoe (and The Likely Lads, 1964–1966) producers began to cast straight actors, rather than comedians, around whom earlier series like Whack-O! (1956–1960, 1971–1972), with Jimmy Edwards, or those featuring Hancock, had been built.
A gentle mockery of Britain's 'finest hour' occurred with the home guard comedy Dad's Army (1968–1977) and the church with All Gas and Gaiters (1966–1971). Women generally had very secondary roles at this time, though various series with Wendy Craig in the leading role and those developed by scriptwriter Carla Lane, the first successful female writer in the form, were challenges to this situation. Lane's career initially began in collaboration with other writers on The Liver Birds (1969–1979, 1996).
The 1970s is often regarded as the golden era of British sitcom. Well-remembered series include John Cleese and Connie Booth's farcical Fawlty Towers (1975, 1979), John Esmonde and Bob Larbey's self-sufficiency comedy The Good Life (1975–78). Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973–74), a sequel to the earlier show, surpassed the original, while the same writers (Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) provided Ronnie Barker with his most successful sitcom vehicle, Porridge (1974–77). Barker also starred (along with David Jason) in Open All Hours (1973, 1976–85), written by Roy Clarke. Clarke's long-running Last of the Summer Wine began in 1973 and ended in 2010, becoming the world's longest running sitcom.
The commercial station ITV had popular successes with Rising Damp (1974–78, sometimes called the best of all ITV sitcoms),Man About the House (1973–76) and George and Mildred (1976–79). Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter also played the lead role in the BBC's highly popular The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–79). The decline in cinema attendance in this period meant that many of these series were turned into cinema films; the first film version of On the Buses (1969–73) was the biggest hit at the British box office in 1971. According to Jeff Evans, On the Buses is a "cheerfully vulgar comedy" in which "leering and innuendo dominate." Some of the network's other ratings successes from this era are now considered politically incorrect. Series such as Love Thy Neighbour (1972–76) and Mind Your Language (1977–79, 1986), which attempted to find humour in racial or ethnic conflict and misunderstandings, were increasingly criticised over time.
Increasing relaxation in regard to the discussion of sex meant farce became a familiar form in the 1970s used in series like Up Pompeii! (1969–70, 1975, 1991), and Are You Being Served? (1972, 1973–85).
In the 1980s the emerging alternative comedians began to encroach on British sitcoms, partly as a response to such series as Terry and June (1979–87) being perceived as containing "complacent gentility, outmoded social attitudes and bourgeois sensibilities". The alternatives incursion began with The Young Ones (1982–84), written by Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and others, and continued with Blackadder (1983–89). Mayall was also the star of The New Statesman (1987–92), a series created by Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks, whose biggest success, Birds of a Feather (1989–98, 2014–), also deviated from British practice in being scripted by a team of writers.
Only Fools and Horses, one of the most successful of all British sitcoms, began in 1981 and was the most durable of several series written and created by John Sullivan. Other hits included the political satireYes Minister (1980–84) and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister (1986–88), Esmonde and Larbey's suburban sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles (1984–89) and the sci-fi-comedy Red Dwarf (1988–). Other shows such as 'Allo 'Allo! (1984–92) were reminiscent of 1970s sitcoms such as Are You Being Served? and Dad's Army unsurprising in light of the fact that all three involved the writer/producer David Croft and two were co-written by Jeremy Lloyd. Also worth mentioning is the short lived Roman Britain sitcom Chelmsford 123 (1988–1990) which has fallen into relative obscurity.
The new Channel 4 began to have successful long-running situation comedies. Desmond's (1989–94) was the first British sitcom with a black cast set in the workplace, and Drop the Dead Donkey (1990–98) brought topicality to the form as it was recorded close to transmission.
Some of the biggest hits of the 1990s were Father Ted, Men Behaving Badly, Game On, Absolutely Fabulous, I'm Alan Partridge, Keeping Up Appearances, Goodnight Sweetheart, Bottom, The Brittas Empire, The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley and One Foot in the Grave. (BBC Worldwide confirmed in February 2016 that Keeping Up Appearances is the corporation's most exported television programme, being sold nearly 1,000 times to overseas broadcasters.)
A final David Croft sitcom, Oh, Doctor Beeching aired from 1995 until 1997.
Around the Millennium period and onward into the 2000s examples of the hyperreal approach pioneered by Galton and Simpson in some of their Hancock scripts, and I'm Alan Partridge, appeared in sitcoms like The Royle Family, The Office, Early Doors, and Gavin & Stacey, as well as many British dramedies.
The BBC has also begun using their digital channels BBC Three and BBC Four to build a following for off-beat series including The Thick of It. Channel 4 has had successes with Spaced, Black Books, Phoenix Nights, Peep Show, Green Wing, The IT Crowd, The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner and Derry Girls.
The conventional sitcom has declined in importance in the schedules over time (in many cases superseded by the mixture of comedy and drama in dramedy series such as Doc Martin and Hamish Macbeth) although the form is not extinct. Some popular sitcoms in the UK during the last ten years include Outnumbered; Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, about a group of young people sharing a flat in Runcorn, which ended its ninth series in 2011;The IT Crowd (2006–2013) about IT colleagues.
At the BBC, the late 2000s and early 2010s saw a major resurgence in traditional-style sitcoms filmed in front of a studio audience and featuring a laughter track, such as Not Going Out written by Lee Mack, Miranda, Reggie Perrin (a remake of the 1970s series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin), Big Top, Irish sitcom Mrs Brown's Boysand In with the Flynns. The most successful BBC sitcom of the 2000s and early 2010s was My Family, which ran for 11 series from 2000 to 2011, came 24th in the Britain's Best Sitcom poll in 2004 and was the most watched sitcom in the United Kingdom in 2008.
ITV also revisited sitcoms upon their rebranding in 2013. Birds of a Feather returned with another series over a decade after its conclusion and received critical acclaim. Focus on sitcoms has since been redirected to sister channel ITV2, which airs American sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory.
British sitcoms overseas
British sitcoms are often seen on the Public Broadcasting Service, usually thanks to the effort of WGBH and increasingly on cable television, including BBC America and Comedy Central. Are You Being Served?, Keeping up Appearances and As Time Goes By became sleeper hits when they aired on the Public Broadcasting Service, while Absolutely Fabulous enjoyed a significant following when it aired on Comedy Central and The Office won a Golden Globe award in 2004 for "Best Television Series—Musical or Comedy", beating popular American favourites such as Sex and the City and Will & Grace. Most PBS stations affectionately refer to British sitcoms as "Britcoms".
Several British sitcoms have been successfully remade for the American market. Notable examples include Steptoe and Son which became Sanford and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, which became All in the Family and The Office which was remade into an American series of the same name. Three's Company, a remake of Man About the House, spawned identical spinoffs: The Ropers (George and Mildred) and Three's a Crowd (Robin's Nest). Other American remakes of British sitcoms include The Rear Guard which was based on Dad's Army, and What a Country! which was based on Mind Your Language. More recently, shows such as The Inbetweeners have been adapted, as well as Misfits and The Thick of It as Veep. A large number of US adaptations end up being cancelled early or are not commissioned after their pilots are created. Another notable difference, which has been both positive and negative depending upon the skill of the cast and writers, is the American media culture of 20+ episode seasons as opposed to the British which usually has fewer than 10 episodes per series.
Australia and New Zealand
In Australia, many British comedy series are aired on the ABC, which is the Australian equivalent of the BBC. British shows are also sometimes shown on the three commercial television networks in Australia; in particular Network Seven screened many popular UK sitcoms during the 1970s. In New Zealand, state-run Television New Zealand also broadcast many popular British series. The majority of British comedies now air in both countries on the subscription channels The Comedy Channel and UKTV.
Australian commercial television channels made their own versions of popular British comedies during the 1970s often using members of the original casts. These included: Are You Being Served?, Father, Dear Father, Doctor Down Under, Love Thy Neighbour. In both countries, locally written and made sitcoms have historically often been heavily influenced by the structure of British sitcoms (such as in the New Zealand sitcom Gliding On).
In the 1980s, India's national stations Doordarshan showed Fawlty Towers, Yes, Minister and Mind Your Language.
- ^"Britcom | Definition of Britcom by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com also meaning of Britcom". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
- ^"Pinwright's Progress", British Comedy Guide website
- ^Anthony Clark "Hancock's Half Hour (1956-60)", BFI screenonline
- ^John Fisher Tony Hancock. The Definitive Biography, London: Harper Collins, 2008, p. 138
- ^Phil Wickham "Sitcom", BFI screenonline
- ^"The Army Game"Archived 9 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Television Heaven website
- ^John Oliver "Chesney, Ronald (1920-) and Wolfe, Ronald (1924-)", BFI screenonline
- ^Jonathan Brown "Mary Whitehouse: To some a crank, to others a warrior: Mary Whitehouse On", The Independent, 24 November 2001
- ^John Oliver "Galton, Ray (1930-) and Simpson, Alan (1929-)", BFI screenonline
- ^"All Gas and Gaiters", BBC Comedy website
- ^Julia Hallam "Lane, Carla (1937-)", BFI screenonline
- ^Phil Wickham "Rising Damp (1974–78)", BFI screenonline
- ^Matthew Coniam "A Users Guide to the Great British Sitcom Movie", Kettering: The Fanzine of Elderly British Comedy, [n.d., c.2003] No.1, pp. 3–9
- ^"On the Buses"Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Television Heaven website
- ^Jeff Evans The Penguin TV Companion, London: Penguin, 2006, p. 621
- ^Vic Pratt "Love Thy Neighbour (1972–76)", BFI screenonline
- ^Vic Pratt "Mind Your Language (1977–79, 1986)", BFI screenonline
- ^Mark Duguid "Race and the Sitcom", BFI screenonline
- ^Anthony Clark "Up Pompeii! (1970)", BFI screenonline
- ^Phil Wickham "Are You Being Served? (1972, 1973–85)", BFI screenonline
- ^Matthew Coniam "Terry and June (1979-87)", BFI screenonline
- ^Hannah Hamad "'Allo 'Allo (1984-92)"!, BFI screenonline
- ^Ali Jaafar "Desmond's (1988-94)", BFI screenonline
- ^"BBC's most popular show overseas is...Keeping Up Appearances". The Independent. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
- Cook, Jim, ed. B.F.I. Dossier 17: Television Sitcom, (London: British Film Institute, 1982).
- Gray, Frances. "Privacy, embarrassment and social power: British sitcom." in Beyond a Joke (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2005) pp. 146–161.
- Gray, Frances. "British sitcom: a rather sad story." in Women and Laughter (Palgrave, London, 1994) pp. 80–111.
- Griffin, Jeffrey, "The Americanization of The Office: a comparison of the offbeat NBC sitcom and its British predecessor". Journal of Popular Film and Television 35 (2008): 154-16
- Heaney, Dermot. "Taboo infringement and layered comedy: a linguistic analysis of convolution in Gervais and Merchant's Life's Too Short." Comedy Studies 7.2 (2016): 152–168.
- Hunt, Leon. Cult British TV Comedy: From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville (Manchester University Press, 2015).
- Kamm, Jürgen, and Birgit Neumann, eds. British TV comedies: Cultural concepts, contexts and controversies (Springer, 2016).
- Kilborn, Richard. "A golden age of British sitcom? Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son." in British TV Comedies (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2016) pp. 23–35.
- Lewisohn, Mark (2003) Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy. 2nd Ed. Revised – BBC Consumer Publishing. ISBN 0-563-48755-0
- Mills, Brett. Television Sitcom (London: BFI, 2005).
- Mills, Brett. "The television sitcom." in The Routledge Companion to British Media History (Routledge, 2014) pp. 469–477.
- Mortimer, Claire. "Angry old women: Peggy Mount and the performance of female ageing in the British sitcom." Critical Studies in Television 10.2 (2015): 71–86.
- Schwind, Kai Hanno. "'Chilled-out entertainers'–multi-layered sitcom performances in the British and American version of The Office." Comedy Studies 5.1 (2014): 20–32.
- Wickham, Phil. "Twenty-First Century British Sitcom and 'the Hidden Injuries of Class'." in Social Class and Television Drama in Contemporary Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017) pp. 201–213.
- Zalmanovich, Tal. "Sharing a laugh: Sitcoms and the production of post-imperial Britain, 1945–1980 (PhD disssertation, Rutgers University, 2013) online.
Funniest British TV shows ever produced, ranked by worldwide comedy fans. British sitcoms - or "Britcoms" as they are sometimes called in the US - are known for their crisp dialogue, biting wit and sardonic look at modern life in the UK. Shows like The Office (which inspired the US series), Are You Being Served and Absolutely Fabulous present traditional settings and scenes, but populated by outlandish, even demented, eccentrics, some of whom have become among the nation's most iconic characters. (Both David Brent of The Office and Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers have been voted near the top of Ranker's "Funniest TV Characters of All Time" list.)
Additionally, though US sitcoms tend to take one of a few reliable formats - a traditional three-camera set-up in front of a studio audience, say, or the "mockumentary" style of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation - British sitcoms tend towards the more experimental and daring. Blackadder, for example, sets each new season in a different time period, with relations of the original two characters: Blackadder and Baldrick. Peep Show as well tells a rather familiar story about two wacky roommates, but through a unique POV perspective, with the actors performing largely in voice-over.
What are the best British comedy series? Numerous English comedy shows on this list - as from the obvious The Office - have inspired American remakes, though the vast majority of these - such as the US versions of Fawlty Towers and Men Behaving Badly - have not met with similar success across the pond.
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